The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last week slammed a fine of N5.87 billion on four banks over the violation of extant laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995, and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006.
Also affected was MTN Nigeria, which the CBN directed to immediately refund $8,134,312,397.63, which was illegally repatriated by the telecoms company, to the coffers of the bank.
The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele had on Tuesday, confirmed that MTN Nigeria would refund the money at the exchange rate at which they were remitted and not the curr
ent rate, leaving the telco with the potential loss of over $4 billion in exchange rate.
However, exactly a week after the central bank’s directive, the federal government through the Attorney General of the federation wrote MTN Nigeria, directing the company to pay $2 billion as taxes that it failed to remit to the government in the past 10 years.
Although MTN has distant itself from any wrong doing in the transactions, as well as the tax evasion, telecoms industry stakeholders are worried about the development and called for proper investigation into the financial transactions. According to them, if the rules guiding funds repatriation from the country were violated, then those involved should be held responsible for such lapses.
President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola argued that the law does not frown at repatriation of funds generated as revenue and therefore insisted that repatriation of funds by MTN should be allowed, irrespective of the size of the funds.
“The only thing to be worried about is if such repatriation is not consistent, not transparent and not in line with the rules of the CBN.
“If it is true that the repatriation was not transparent, then we have a challenge with our financial system to have allowed such amount to be repatriated without CBN approval. The situation will raise a lot of doubts in the mind of foreign investors who are willing to do business in Nigeria,” Teniola said.
He, however, said the CBN’s order was untimely and harsh, coming two years after the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had investigated the same issue and exonerated MTN of any wrong doing.
Also, the Chairman of the Association of Licenced Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo said he would not want to apportion blames on the CBN for its directive on MTN to refund repatriated funds.
He explained that the burden of proof that there was an infraction on the MTN financial transactions with the four banks over funds repatriation, lies on the CBN, based on the earlier report on the investigation of MTN by Senate on the same issue, which freed MTN of any complicity.
Reacting to the CBN order on MTN over refund of $8.134 billion to the CBN coffers, MTN had in a statement said it got the approval of the CBN for all dividends it had declared in the past, and that the Senate investigation on alleged funds repatriation had since exonerated it from any complicity in illegal funds transfer.
MTN Nigeria strongly refutes these allegations and claims. No dividends have been declared or paid by MTN Nigeria other than pursuant to CCIs issued by our bankers and with the approval of the CBN as required by law.
“The issues surrounding the CCIs have already been the subject of a thorough enquiry by the Senate of Nigeria. In September 2016 the Senate mandated the Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions to carry out a holistic investigation on compliance with the Foreign exchange (monitoring and miscellaneous) Act by MTN Nigeria and others. In its report issued in November 2017, the findings evidenced that MTN Nigeria did not collude to contravene the foreign exchange laws and there were no negative recommendations made against MTN Nigeria,” the statement said.
“MTN Nigeria, as a law-abiding citizen of Nigeria, is committed to good governance and to abiding by the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The re-emergence of these issues is regrettable as it damages investor confidence and, by extension, inhibits the growth and development of the Nigerian economy,” the statement further said. – This Day Live